Cultural studies chapter 8


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Cultural studies chapter 8

  1. 1. CulturedBodies
  2. 2. The SocialConstructionofCorporeality
  3. 3. CorporealPhysical, and not spiritual,of the body; relating to apersons body, which is of amaterial nature or tangible,especially as opposed totheir spirit;
  4. 4. Our bodies are most decidedlya part of nature, subject tonatural processes such asgrowth and decay, hunger andillness, and so forth, all ofwhich daily remind us of ourconnection to a realm outsidesociety and culture.
  5. 5. While the human body consistsof an indisputable naturalsubstratum, cultural studiestakes seriously the notion itsappearance, condition, andactivity are culturally shaped.
  6. 6. Discussion of the human bodyin cultural studies often alsorefer to the related terms‗mind‘ and ‗self‘. What are thedifferences and relationsbetween these notions?
  7. 7. At least five specific features ofthe bodies of humansdistinguish humans as species:the capacity for binocularvision, the audio-vocalicsystem, bipedalism, hands, andexpressive capacity.
  8. 8. The capacity for binocularvision – Most social encountersbegin with an assessment of theappearance of the other. Mostgenerally, vision serves as thecoordinator of the senses.
  9. 9. The audio-vocalic systemThe throat, mouth, and earsare coordinated with the brainand the central nervous systemto enable us to speak. The useof language is our fundamentalsymbolic capacity.
  10. 10. BipedalismWe walk upright. Even in theWest‘s automobile-dominatedculture, walking remains thebasic way of moving around inour world. Bipedalism alsoenhances the way that ourvision works.
  11. 11. Hands – The fingers andopposing thumb of the humanhand permit the manipulationof objects in precise andcareful way. Tool use involvescomplex bodily coordinationfocused around the skilled useof the hands.
  12. 12. Expressive CapacityHumans have a capacity forgreater gestural complexitythan other primates. The facesof humans can express a widerange of emotions and someembodied gestures (laughter)appear to be unique to humans.
  13. 13. These five features frame thekinds of activity in whichhumans can engage. Thus,cultural studies emphasizesthat the body is not merely amaterial entity, biologicaldatum or physiological fact butis a social construction.
  14. 14. Mind, however, is the capacityfor reasoned thought andreflection, carried out by thebrain but not reducible to it.The mind is regarded asdwelling in the human bodybut remains somehow distinctfrom it.
  15. 15. The mind-body split is oftenlinked to a number of furthercontrasts:mind – bodyprivate – publicinner – outerculture – naturereason – passion
  16. 16. This schema gives prominenceto mind in defining the person.The body is seen, at best, as themind‘s vehicle and, at worst, asdriven by desires and appetitesthat need the mind‘srestraining influence,guidance, and command.
  17. 17. Body and mind are betterthought of as interdependent,not as separate entities. It isalso important to understandthat the human body straddlesthe realms of ‗nature‘ and‗culture‘.
  18. 18. The functioning of the materialbody must obey naturalprocesses – we all have to sleepand eat – but how sleeping,eating, and other bodily activityactually occurs in inescapablyframed social and culturalfactors.
  19. 19. Consider the very noticeablesignificance of age and genderin the treatment of the humanbodies. Except for transsexualsthe assignment of ‗male‘ and‗female‘ is a categorization thatis exhaustive of the populationand lifelong in duration.
  20. 20. Age is, in many societies, noless significant. At every stageof life, there are expected formsof behavior and culturallydefined and approvedexperiences.
  21. 21. Shakespeare‘s 7 Ages of Man
  22. 22. Shakespeare‘s 7 Ages of Man1. InfancyIn this stage he is a helplessbaby and knows little.
  23. 23. 2. Childhood – It is that stageof life that he begins to go toschool. He is unwilling to leavethe protected environment ofhis home as he is still notconfident enough to exercisehis own judgment.
  24. 24. 3. The lover – In this stage heis always remorseful due tosome reason or other,especially the loss of love. Hetries to express feelingsthrough song or some othercultural activity.
  25. 25. 4. The Soldier – It is in this age thathe thinks less of himself and begins tothink more of others. He is very easilyaroused and is hot headed. He isalways working towards making areputation for himself and gainingrecognition, however short-lived itmay be, even at the cost of his ownlife.
  26. 26. 5. The Justice - In this stage he hasacquired wisdom through the manyexperiences he has had in life. Hehas reached a stage where he hasgained prosperity and social status.He becomes very attentive of hislooks and begins to enjoy the finerthings of life.
  27. 27. 6. Old Age – He begins to losehis charm — both physical andmental. He begins to becomethe butt of others jokes. Heloses his firmness andassertiveness, and shrinks instature and personality.
  28. 28. 7. Extreme Old AgeHe loses his status and hebecomes an insignificantperson. He becomesdependent on others.
  29. 29. Therefore, gender, intandem with age, providestwo of the deepestdeterminants of the culturaland social shaping of thehuman body.
  30. 30. Techniquesof theBody
  31. 31. Very obviously, the body is themeans or instrument for carryingout all the practical action throughwhich people engage the world.Marcel Mauss devised the conceptof ‗body techniques‘ to describe theways in which society to men knowhow to use their bodies.
  32. 32. There is no ‗natural‘ form to bodilyactions, no pan-human, pre-cultural, universal or inherentshape to actions such as walking,swimming, spitting, digging,marching, even staring or givingbirth. Rather, bodily actions arehistorically and culturally variable.
  33. 33. However, body techniques arevary quite conspicuouslyaccording to gender and agedifferences, the effects oftraining, and the transmissionand acquisition of thesetechniques.
  34. 34. For example, women deliver weakpunches in part because theyusually clasp their thumbs insidetheir fingers; women throwdifferently from men; children cansquat with ease while most adultWesterners cannot.
  35. 35. Young:Throwinglike a girl
  36. 36. Young identify differences inWestern industrial societies in howwomen ‗hold‘ themselves(comportment), their manner ofmoving (motility), and theirrelation to space (spatiality) whichare more limited and circumscribedthan the behaviors of men.
  37. 37. ―Girls don‘t bring their wholebodies into the motion as much asthe boys. They don‘t reach back,twist, move backward, step andlean forward. Rather, the girls tendto remain relatively immobileexcept for their arms and even thearm isn‘t extended as far as it can.‖
  38. 38. Feminine comportment andmovement is characteristicallymarked by a failure to use thebody‘s full potential range ofmotion. Some examples:Women are generally not as openwith their bodies as men in theirgait and stride.
  39. 39. Typically, the masculine stride islonger proportional to a man‘sbody than is the feminine stride toa woman‘s. The man typicallyswings his arms in a more openand loose fashion than does awoman typically more up and downrhythm in his steps.
  40. 40. When simply standing orleaning, men tend to keep theirfeet further apart than dowomen, and women tend moreto keep their hands and armstouching or shielding theirbodies.
  41. 41. The origins of this characteristicfeatures of feminine comportmentand movement are not innate, butcurrently dominant forms offeminine motility serve to restrictand inhibit the realization ofwomen‘s intentionality.
  42. 42. Goffman:Body Idioms&Body Gloss
  43. 43. During social encounters, such aswhen we are engaged in aconversation with a friend or aretravelling on public transport, wefeel the need to acquireinformation about others – theirstatus and identity, mood andorientation towards us and so on.
  44. 44. •Facial expression•Stance•Limbs disposition•Tone of speechThese are ‗body idioms‘ whichdescribes ‗dress, bearing,movements and position, soundlevel, physical & facial gesturesand broad emotional expressions
  45. 45. For example, Goffman shows howwalking involves a range ofcultural understandings abouttypes of people:1. who may have to be managedor avoided(beggars, market researchers,pamphleteers)
  46. 46. 2. Those to whom special caremust be exercised (the frail,people with canes or guidedogs, toddlers)3. Those who can be turned tofor reliable directions (trafficwardens, police)
  47. 47. 4. Those who want us tostop and listen and watch(buskers, mime artists)5. Those who look likely tothreaten our persons andproperty.
  48. 48. In walking down a street, weconstantly monitor our own bodiesand those of others to avoidcollisions – less complicated whenwe are ‗single‘ (solitary walker)than if we are ‗with‘ (accompaniedby others with whom we mustcoordinate our progress.
  49. 49. This involves scanning upcomingpedestrians but doing so in anunobtrusive and non-threateningway. Goffman calls this the normof ‗civil inattention‘. Theorderliness of many public placesdepends on people following thisrule.
  50. 50. RepresentationsofEmbodiment
  51. 51. RepresentingMasculinity
  52. 52. One element of hegemonicmasculinity involves bodilydisplays of aggression andviolence. This is often regardedas facilitated, if not actuallycaused by male masculatureand chromosomal heritage.
  53. 53. Among teenage working-class boys, for example, acertain amount of pushingand punching, playfullyframed, can function assignifier of friendship.
  54. 54. Sometimes, this aggressivebehavior can be personal (e.g.assault, fist fights, etc.) orinstitutionalized (e.g. wars, etc)and one of the best specificinstitutionalized examples isthe fascist ideologies.
  55. 55. Fascista political system based on avery powerful leader, statecontrol and being extremelyproud of country and race, andin which political opposition isnot allowed.
  56. 56. This warrior mentality sharplypolarizes bodily characteristicsalong gender lines. Women areregarded as soft, fluid, a subversivesource of pleasure or pain whomust be contained and negative‗other‘ to be hived off fromauthentic masculine existence.
  57. 57. Men therefore need to policethe boundaries of their bodiescarefully, and through drillsand exercises develop amachine-like, organized, andhard body that can resistmerger or fusion with others,and that is reliably autonomous
  58. 58. In this belief system, thepleasure of combat is highlypraised and killing comes to beseen as a means of affirming aman‘s wholeness, a way ofasserting coherence of his bodyand self by invading the bodilyboundaries of others.
  59. 59. The movie industry, now just acentury years old, has proved tobe a potent source ofrepresentations of masculinity.Arguably, there is a greaterrange of masculinities on offerin popular films thanfemininities.
  60. 60. It needs to be emphasized thatmale bodily power is evident inmany, very much moremundane settings, such asangling on a river or canalbank.
  61. 61. RepresentingSexuality
  62. 62. The representations of thehuman body, in particular bypostmodern technologies ofphotography and film, hasstimulated a range of debatesabout the limits of acceptableimages of the human body.
  63. 63. The representations of thehuman body, in particular bypostmodern technologies ofphotography and film, hasstimulated a range of debatesabout the limits of acceptableimages of the human body.
  64. 64. We must realize that there is adistinction between ‗erotica‘and ‗pornography‘. Erotica hasits roots in the Greek word for‗love‘, and generally connotesa diffuse source of sexualstimulation.
  65. 65. Pornography, however, pushessexual explicitness to theextreme. It is a form ofrepresentation that graphicallydepicts sexuality in order tostimulate its consumers.
  66. 66. It is also important todistinguish between‗offence‘ and ‗harm‘. Whatpersons and groups findoffensive varies and is amatter of taste and moralconviction.
  67. 67. When we claim that someobject or arrangement isharmful, we aremaintaining that it hasmeasurable deleteriouseffects on people‘s attitudesand behavior.
  68. 68. For example, we may wellfind offensive the cartoonsthat children watch on TV,but it is different matterentirely to hold that thesecartoons are harmful.
  69. 69. Manifestly, there are manysexualized images that give offenceto individuals or groups, but toclaim that pornography is harmfulis to propose that negative, anti-social consequences can be provento follow from its existence andconsumption.
  70. 70. Cyborgism,Fragmentation,and the End of theBody?
  71. 71. FragmentationThe act or process ofbreaking down somethinginto small pieces.
  72. 72. The human body isincreasingly coming to betreated not as a unitarywhole but a differentiatedentity requiring specializedtreatment.
  73. 73. Consumer culturefragments the body into aseries of body parts to bemaintained through diet,cosmetics, exercise,vitamins, etc.
  74. 74. Also, there are a wide range ofcosmetics to be applied to themany different parts of thebody: mouth, hair, skin, eyes,lips, teeth, legs, feet – andproducts and applicationscontinue to diversify
  75. 75. Health care is providedby medical specialismswhich divide the body upinto specific regions andfunctions.
  76. 76. The fragmentation of thebody into a collection ofbody parts can be regardedas implicated in the largerprocess of fragmentation inthe contemporary world.
  77. 77. The concept of cyberneticorganism or ‗cyborg‘ isanother challenge toconventional essentialistunderstanding of thehuman body.
  78. 78. The cyborg was originallyconceived as neuro-physiologically modifiedhuman body that couldwithstand the demands ofspace journeys.
  79. 79. In reality, however, thecyborg combination of themechanical with human isalready with us, evident inthe extensive use of simpleprosthetic devices.
  80. 80. It is also apparent in the wideacceptance of cosmetic surgery,biotechnological devices likepacemakers, the use ofvaccination to program theimmune system to destroyviruses and advances in geneticengineering.
  81. 81. Humans are immersed in theworld, producing theirhumanness in relationshipswith each other and withobjects. We exercise in the gym,play sports in specialist shoes,and contact people by mobilephones.
  82. 82. These routine interactions withmachines and technology drawus into increasinglyinternational technoculturalnetworks – bringing animportant sense that we are allcyborgs now.
  83. 83. For Haraway, the cyborgnotion refers to the hybridnetworks that arise from theincorporations of humansinto technologies designedto assist human projects.
  84. 84. The enormous impact oftechno-science on the home,market, workplace, school, andhospitals offer the potential tooverride the old determinationsof class, race, and gender andestablish new modes of humanbeing.